With the National Championship Game being the only college football game left, the 2018 college football season is officially coming to an end. Bowl season has flown by, as it tends to do every year, and schools are already starting to look ahead to next season. Before we start looking into what the 2019 season is going to look like, I want to take a moment to look at the top bowl performances from Group of Five quarterbacks. More than 30 schools from the Group of Five conferences participated in a bowl game this year. While there have been some underwhelming and just straight up disappointing quarterback performances (from G5 and P5 schools), we have also had our share of impressive quarterback play. Let’s not focus too much on the negative play and get into the best Group of Five quarterback performances from the 2018 bowl season.
- Tyler Johnston III (UAB) – The Redshirt Freshman QB came into the Boca Raton Bowl with four career starts. The bowl game ended up being only his 5th career start, a start in which he set career highs in passing yards with 373 and passing touchdowns with four. Three of Johnston’s four passing touchdowns went to wide receiver Ubosi, as Northern Illinois had trouble stopping the go routes that UAB seemed to call on every possession. For the game, Johnston completed 17 passes of his 29 attempts, 373 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, and also added 28 yards on the ground. Johnston helped the UAB program win the Conference USA championship, win their bowl game, and get to 11 wins as they wrapped up the best season in UAB football history. UAB does lose a lot of seniors next year, but this game showed the UAB fan base that they are in good hands moving forward with Johnston under center.
- Jordan Love (Utah State) – Jordan Love came into the New Mexico Bowl already having set the Utah State single season record for passing touchdowns. After the game ended he was the single season record holder for passing yards and total touchdowns for Utah State as well. This bowl game was one of the most anticipated bowl games between two Group of 5 schools. Mason Fine for North Texas against Jordan Love for Utah State was sure to be a heck of a game. Unfortunately, Mason Fine ended up getting injured in the first half of the game and Utah State ran away with the game. The game was not even close as the Aggies won 52-13. Honestly, this wasn’t even one of Jordan Love’s better games, but he still threw for 359 yards and had 5 total touchdowns. This shows how good Jordan Love is; he doesn’t play his best game, posts a 48.8% completion percentage, but still manages 5 touchdowns. He was 21 of 43 passing the ball, 359 yards, 4 passing touchdowns, and added 1 rushing score on the ground This time next year he could potentially be getting talked about as a junior quarterback leaving early for the NFL Draft, he is that good.
- Kelvin Hopkins Jr. (Army) – Yes, Army is an independent school and not technically in a conference, but I wanted to give Hopkins some love so I included him on this list despite the title of the article stating “QB Play From Group of Five Conferences”. Army destroyed the University of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl, 70-14, largely due to the play by Army QB Hopkins. The 56-point victory for Army tied an FBS record for largest margin of victory in a bowl game. From the very start of the game Houston had no chance in slowing down Hopkins and Army’s option attack. Hopkins only threw three passes, but completed all of them for 70 yards. However, Army could have won the game without even thinking of attempting a pass. Hopkins set a career high in rushing yards with 170, rushing touchdowns with 5, and average of rushing yards per attempt with 15.5 yards. Hopkins was unstoppable, and to top it off, his 2nd rushing touchdown of the game was a career long run of 77 yards. Hopkins was a big reason why Army got to 11 wins this year and almost knocked off the Big 12 Champions earlier in the year. He will be back next year and I would imagine he will pick up where he left off.
- Sawyer Smith (Troy) – Troy’s victory over Buffalo in the Dollar General Bowl was largely due to Smiths performance, which he set career high in completions with 31, passing yards with 320, and passing touchdowns with 4. Sawyer Smith took over the starting job mid-way through the season when starter Kaleb Barker went down with an injury. Smith improved each game as he got more and more experience and arguably had the best game of his short career during the bowl game. Going into the bowl game, Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson was getting most of the hype and publicity, with Smith almost being an afterthought. However, it was Smith who played the better game and showed that he is much more than just a back-up. It is going to be an interesting spring and fall camp at the QB position for Troy. Barker was really starting to excel under center before tearing his ACL, I am no doctor, but would guess he will be ready for fall camp. Troy also brought in a Juco transfer who was formerly at Vanderbilt. Smith proved he is more than capable of leading this Troy team and will surely be ready to compete once spring rolls around.
- Christian Alexander (FIU) – While Alexander’s numbers may not be as sexy as some of the others on this list, his performance may have been my favorite. With that said, Alexander still put up very respectable numbers and helped lead FIU to victory over Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl. This was his only start of the season as he was filling in for injured starter James Morgan. Morgan, who put up great numbers and even set the single season passing touchdown record at FIU, was a big reason why FIU had such a successful season. To Alexander’s credit, he stepped in for Morgan and led FIU to 35 points. The offense relied more on the run game and had more designed QB runs than when Morgan is playing, but overall didn’t miss a beat as far as scoring goes. Alexander set career highs in completions with 17, passing yards with 209, and rushing yards with 83. He did a great job of giving his receivers a chance and doing enough in the passing game that it opened up the run game for him and his running backs. Alexander still has availability to play next year and is exploring options to transfer since Morgan will be back under center for the 2019 season.
**Other QB’s considered: Green (Marshall), Peters (Toledo), Smith (La-Tech). Zach Wilson from BYU should have technically been on this list as well since I added Hopkins to it. Wilson arguably had the best performance of any QB this bowl season as he was 18-18 passing with 317 yards in the air and 4 passing touchdowns. **
Another bowl season has passed us by and us football junkies are already looking forward to the 2019 season, even with the National Championship still to be played. Be on the look-out for some quarterback recruiting breakdowns coming out before we start diving into spring stories in a few short months.